The Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is asking for community perspectives to protect the local watershed.

The Community Round Table (CRT) will recruit members from all sectors of the community to inform the District of Muskoka’s integrated watershed management plan, according to MWC Chair Geoff Ross.

”It has to be designed to fit the unique circumstances of Muskoka,” says Ross. “That is really what the Community Round Table is all about, is to bring together information, perspectives, knowledge from people in the community about the unique aspects of Muskoka, so that we can get an integrated watershed management system put together that responds to the uniqueness of Muskoka.”

According to Ross, the CRT will include members from all sectors and walks of life, such as education, science, business, government, and community interests. He says it’s vital to include all parties in the management of the watershed to avoid tunnel vision on a single aspect.

“Part of the difficulties that we have is the failure to look at the big picture, perhaps to focus too much on just one thing at a time,” Ross says. “The key thing is to start to look at all things together and how those things interrelate.”

The creation of a Community Round Table was one of the recommendations made in a report to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks in June of last year. The District of Muskoka requested the Muskoka Watershed Council to create the group as it launched a 12-project initiative to protect the Muskoka River watershed. The project, which received $4 million of funding from the provincial government, is currently in its first phase, which includes compiling information on the watershed, as well as performing new surveys.

“The information from these projects is hopefully going to inform a future watershed strategy or management plan, and what that will look like is still under consideration,” says Glenn Cunnington, manager of the District’s Integrated Watershed Management Initiative. “The intent is to develop this strategy, or eventually a plan, based on the best available scientific information, and we’re looking to find that balance between society, economy, and the environment.”

Cunnington says the project will also revisit the province’s Muskoka River Management Plan, to look at ways to reduce seasonal flooding, as well as taking inventory of geographical features in the watershed such as wetlands and forests. He says phase one of the projects should be completed by spring of 2022.

The Community Round Table does not currently have a set timeline for its creation, according to Ross. Those interested in joining the group are encouraged to contact the Muskoka Watershed Council.